Colombia

COLOMBIA: In spite of trauma, a smile


[Note: The following has been adapted for CPTnet.  The original is available on CPT Colombia’s website.]

As we arrived at the meeting with the people of Bella Union, a village neighboring El Guayabo, I saw a woman sitting under a green tree with a big smile.  I immediately thought it would be interesting to know more about her.

Our task was very specific: to document cases of human rights violations from 1990 to 2014.  Soon it was time for the woman with the beautiful smile to share.  She was a bit tired because she had given her statement many times without seeing results, so I paid close attention to what she was saying.

As she told me step by step what she had suffered at the hands of violent actors, her smile grew more radiant.  She did not seem weighed down by sadness, despite the fact that over ten years ago, violence in the region put out a light in their lives.  She continued recounting the events that ended the lives of her family: first the story of her father’s death, then her brother’s, and then she took a break, saying that the story of her son was the most painful. 

COLOMBIA VIDEO: “The chocolate process”--a cup of hot chocolate truly made from scratch

CPT Colombia has a new video out showing how the community of Garzal makes a cup of hot chocolate—from the time the cacao fruit is picked, to the preparation and husking of cocoa beans, to the cup of sweet deliciousness. 

Watch here 

Cup of Chocolate // Una Taza de Chocolate from CPT/ECAP Colombia on Vimeo.

The communities of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza have engaged in what is called a “social process” to resist displacement and stand up for their rights and their dignity for more than a decade.  They are among the primary communities that CPT Colombia accompanies.

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo calls for justice and transparency in Puerto Wilches

In his 1984 address at Mennonite World Conference that served as the catalyst for the formation of Christian Peacemaker Teams, Ron Sider described shalom as “being in right relationship with God, neighbor and the earth.”  Shalom, he says, “means not only the absence of war, but also…the fair division of land so that all families can earn their own way.  It…means the Jubilee and sabbatical release of debts so that great extremes of wealth and poverty do not develop among God’s people.”

 When I walk through the community of El Guayabo on a peaceful day, shalom is what I see.  People live together, worship together, farm together, and welcome strangers into their homes.  There is food for everyone, even a surplus to feed the neighboring towns.  The recent illegal eviction attempt that violently disrupted peace in this community was not only unethical, but also tainted a lifestyle that is holy, a lifestyle that I believe is pleasing to God.

 On 11 August 2014, the communities of El Guayabo and Bella Union gathered to pray publicly and call for political transparency in the town of Puerto Wilches.  They used songs, Bible verses, speeches, and a dramatic action to bring attention to the recent illegal eviction attempt made by riot police.  During the planning stage, El Guayabo leader Eric told the Christian Peacemaker Team delegation that the goal of the action was to spread awareness about the eviction attempt (the origins of which developed under suspicious circumstances) in Puerto Wilches, the largest town in their municipality. 

 

Edinson Garcia speaks during the laying down of the recent harvest

 

When they arrived at the Mayor’s office, the farmers knelt, each placing a different crop from the most recent harvest on the pavement outside the entrance.  CPTers moved forward with palm branches and symbolically covered the crops, as a delegate listed aloud the harmful consequences that a lack of transparency about the eviction process would have for the community.  The delegation then publicly stated their support for the community as the Mayor looked on.  At the conclusion of the action, a delegation leader gave a petition to the Mayor signed by 180 international partners.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: My hero


The first time I met my hero she was one of a dozen dusty, carefree children congregated like a school of fish on the edge of town as they dreamed up their next adventure.  Buenos Aires looked like of the best places on earth to be a kid: a small, quiet riverside town with a whole jungle out back to explore, where they were free to be queens and kings of their own destiny. 

It was a warning to me that singled her out from this mob of Indiana Joneses: “That one over there—the angelic, sweet, little girl with the springy curls and big smile?  She’s a handful.  Give her a foot and she’ll take a mile.” 

Jimena sure is a handful—a handful of spunk, spirit, and joy.  She’s nine years old and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up to help people with heart problems.  Her toothy grin and the way she snuggles up under my arm and into my heart leaves me no doubt that she’ll save many lives.   

COLOMBIA: Las Pavas files a public complaint against aggressions of palm oil company and government inaction

On 4 August 2014, the community of Las Pavas filed a public complaint against the constant aggressions committed by the palm company Aportes San Isidro and the lack of government response regarding the actions of this company.  The community, to whom the government allocated the Las Pavas farm 2012 and whom the government recognized in 2013 as displaced by paramilitaries in 2003, continue to be affected by the palm company’s disregard for the legal system.  Aportes San Isidro has committed various attacks against the community, which generate terror, despair, and social breakdown in the community.  The community of Las Pavas also denounces the lack of guarantees from the State, to whom they have reported many times their vulnerable situation and the violence enacted against their members.

Read (in Spanish) Las Pavas’ denunciation of Aportes San Isidro’s violent harassment and the government’s inaction here.

Prayers for Peacemakers, August 6, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers, August 6, 2014

Pray that the heart of  Leonel Gutierrez Lagares, Inspector of Police of Vijagual, who has tried to evict the community of El Guayabo five times from its land, will be moved to repentance when CPT Colombia delivers a petition to him this week protesting a violent 26 June 2014 eviction.  Ask that God continue to encourage the hearts of the people of El Guayabo as they nonviolently resist systemic powers trying to move them out of the way.

Epixel* August 10, 2014

Community tries to protect teacher's house from riot police eviction

Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps.

Psalm 85:11-13

 *epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches, related to and appearing with 
a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

COLOMBIA URGENT ACTION: Sign petition protesting violent eviction of El Guayabo Community members from their land.

[Note: The following has been adapted for CPTnet. The release on CPT Colombia's blog contains a gallery of photos showing in more detail the events of the day.]

On Thursday 26 June, forty-five riot police, led by Leonel Gutierrez Lagares, Inspector of Police of Vijagual, raided the house of Henry RincĂłn Rinel, a school teacher in El Guayabo.  After four attempts at eviction over the last year, Inspector Gutierrez Lagares, with only eighteen hours notice, ordered the surrender of RincĂłn’s house.  Riot police entered the property, using fifteen tear gas canisters within the span of seven to ten minutes to disperse community members who had gathered to protect the house and take control.  During that time, riot police caused injury to several community members including severe reactions to the tear gas, lesions, and blows to the body.  The community remained peaceful during the eviction and members were surprised by the police violence.

Take Action: Sign the petition and write to the community.

COLOMBIA ELECTION ANALYSIS: Peace won?

We read and hear in the media people declaring that “Peace Won” in Colombia on Sunday, June 15.  However, I have yet to hear someone without power and money say the same.  Here on the CPT-Colombia team, we are all just breathing a collective sigh of relief that presidential candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga walked away from Sunday’s second round election the loser.

Current President Juan Manuel Santos won the election with just 51% of the vote, but enough to keep alive the negotiations to end Colombia’s sixty-year conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC (Colombia’s largest guerrilla army).  Santos bet his entire election on maintaining the negotiation process begun in Havana in 2012, upping the ante five days before the election with the announcement that he would begin parallel talks with the ELN (Colombia’s second largest guerrilla army). 



Election posters of candidate Zuluaga, who would have ended negotiations, at the Las Pavas farm with palm oil corporation
Aportes San Isidro security guards/ Las Pavas community harassers in the background.

Prayers for Peacemakers June 25, 2014

Prayers for Peacemakers June 25, 2014

Pray that now Colombians have re-elected Juan Manuel Santos, he will follow through, via negotiations with the FARC and ELN guerilla groups, on his commitment to end the decades-long civil war in Colombia.

Epixel* for Sunday June 29, 2014

Election posters of candidate Zuluaga, who would have ended negotiations, at the Las Pavas farm with palm oil corporation
Aportes San Isidro security guards/ Las Pavas community harassers in the background.

"The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence
against many countries and great kingdoms.  As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the
word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet."

                                                                                                                      Jeremiah 28:8-9
*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches related to and appearing with a text from the upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary readings.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: I too am a woman

Increasingly, in our Colombian context, the terms “gender equality,” “women’s rights,” and “women in leadership” are being discussed, trampled on, and fought for.

Gender is a touchy subject.  No one wants to be called a sexist or machista.  Women are timidly and boldly stepping forward, and men are shuffling aside, abashed and apologizing as they tiptoe aimlessly around the stage.

CPT welcomes these spaces of dialogue because even through tears and frustrations, we hope to continue listening and learning along our journey for justice.  So we were very excited CAHUCOPANA asked us to accompany its members to Dos Quebradas for the First Regional Meeting of Women from Northeastern Antioquia: “For the Defence of Land and Dignity” 30-31 May 2014.

I was grateful to take part in sessions about unsung women heroines in Colombia’s history and panels with the women leading today’s agricultural movement, as well as a citizen’s workshop where the women of Northeastern Antioquia defined what peace meant to them.  The workshop led to the construction of a political declaration in which these women envisioned alternatives for ending the social violence and military conflict by transforming economical, social, and cultural norms and by creating space for women as political actors.  But the moment that had the most impact for me was an evening fireside conversation around apple sugar cane tea.